Progress towards Peace in Mali is Unfolding, Security Council Told, Despite Tough Security, Humanitarian and Human Rights Challenges
Speakers Demand Better Safety, Freedom of Movement for MINUSMA after Four Peacekeepers Killed
Progress in Mali’s political transition and peace process is unfolding amid a challenging security, humanitarian and human rights situation with severe consequences for civilians, the top United Nations official in the country told the Security Council today, as delegates called for strengthened measures to ensure the safety and freedom of movement of peacekeepers following the deaths of four United Nations blue helmets just a day before.
El-Ghassim Wane, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), said that the security situation remains volatile in central Mali and in the tri-border area between Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, with a sharp increase in the activities of extremist elements affiliated with Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. Such groups are taking advantage of security voids and fighting for territorial control while also targeting Government forces and MINUSMA alike, he said, urging the need to restore State authority and rebuild trust with local communities.
Citing progress in Mali’s political transition, he pointed to the draft constitution, preparations for a constitutional referendum in March 2023, adoption of the electoral law in June, and the planned establishment of an independent election management authority. MINUSMA and the United Nations country team have been engaged in delivering logistical and technical support and by contributing to the monitoring mechanism, he said, also highlighting the Mission’s work in support of the peace process.
Turning to the humanitarian situation, he said there are now more than 422,000 internally displaced persons in Mali and more than 1.8 million people facing severe food insecurity. Humanitarian efforts are hampered by a lack of funding, he said, adding that the resilience and determination of MINUSMA personnel cannot substitute for the assets required for them do their job. “The United Nations, in spite of the inherent limitations of peacekeeping, offers the best reward for achieving lasting peace in Mali and the greater Sahel,” he said.
In the ensuing debate, Council members expressed condolences for the four MINUSMA peacekeepers who died on 17 October and called on Malian authorities not to restrict the Mission’s work. Delegates also welcomed progress on the political front, noting that an upcoming strategic review of MINUSMA should help ensure that the Mission can discharge its mandate.
Ghana’s representative, speaking also on behalf of Gabon and Kenya, said that “Mali is not out of the woods yet”. The reconfiguration of international counter-terrorism efforts in the Sahel, including the withdrawal of the French forces from Mali, has created capability gaps, he said, adding that a decision by some troop-contributing countries to withdraw their peacekeepers by year’s end could worsen the situation. He urged the timely implementation of the 2015 Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali Emanating from the Algiers process, stronger political will and commitment by Malian authorities, and close monitoring by the local monitoring committee, comprising the African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United Nations.
The Russian Federation’s representative said that Mali is struggling against terrorism in the midst of a security vacuum that is linked to the unprovoked withdrawal of French and other European units. The Malian army has shown they can achieve tangible results to counter terrorists. Noting attempts to tarnish her country’s assistance to the Malian army, she said Moscow will not interfere in Mali’s internal politics.
Representatives of France, Norway, Ireland, United States and the United Kingdom drew attention to the Wagner Group’s activities in Mali and its links to alleged human rights abuses and violations. The representative of the United States in particular said that that organization will not bring peace to Mali, but rather exploitation and instability.
France’s representative added that since its inception nine years ago, MINUSMA has become one of the Organization’s most dangerous missions. Today, it is a mission in danger, with a security threat hovering above it, he said, calling on the Malian authorities to renew cooperation and trust with subregional partners to present a united front against the cross-border threat.
Abdoulaye Diop, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Mali, outlined the progress made on the political front, emphasizing that his country is committed to the diligent implementation of the peace agreement. On the security situation, he said that Mali’s defence forces are growing in strength, but he added that the question cannot be addressed by responding to security threats alone. Turning to human rights, he said that contrary to unfounded allegations, military operations were being conducted in stringent compliance with international humanitarian law. He went on to say that Mali has no desire to restrict MINUSMA’s movements and that it is fully committed to working with the Mission so that it can discharge its mandate with full respect for national sovereignty.
Also speaking today were representatives of India, China, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Mexico and Albania.
The representatives of France and Mali took the floor a second time.
The meeting began at 10:08 a.m. and ended at 12:14 p.m.
EL-GHASSIM WANE, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), presenting the Secretary-General's latest report (S/2022/731), noted significant progress in electoral preparations for the holding of a constitutional referendum in March 2023. The constitutional drafting committee, following a series of consultations held with Malian stakeholders in July and August, presented a draft constitution which provides for the establishment of a bicameral parliament and favours alternative means for dispute resolution to facilitate implementation of the 2015 agreement and outcome of the Algiers process. After the adoption of the electoral law in June, steps have been taken to establish a unique independent election management authority which will proceed to make operational various national, regional and local structures, as well as coordination cells for diplomatic and consular missions of Mali abroad. A successful electoral process will also hinge on the availability of financial and logistical resources and security development. MINUSMA and the United Nations country team have been engaged in delivering logistical and technical support and by contributing to the monitoring mechanism, he said.
Since the month of August, the peace process has made significant headway, he said, noting the approval of the Government’s proposal to incorporate up to 26,000 former fighters in the Malian security and defence forces and other State structures. Measures are currently being adopted to follow up on the creation of an ad hoc commission, he said, noting that the success of its work will pave the way for the launch of the comprehensive disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process. MINUSMA and the 2 Malian commissions tasked respectively with that process visited the regions to assess technical and logistical conditions. MINUSMA has also been engaged alongside other representatives of the international mediation effort led by Algeria and has been delivering significant technical, financial and logistical support for the peace process. In central Mali, the Government adopted on 24 August a stabilization strategy for the region — a longstanding request by the Council. That strategy focuses on peace, security and social cohesion; governance and justice; economic and humanitarian recovery; and communication and coordination, he added, noting that the Mission has carried out 100 projects aimed at infrastructure recovery and promotion of social cohesion, among others.
These developments are unfolding against the backdrop of a very challenging security, humanitarian and human rights situation, he emphasized. The security situation remains volatile in central Mali and in the tri-border area between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, with a sharp increase in the activities of extremist elements affiliated with Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. Those groups are taking advantage of security voids and are fighting for territorial control while also targeting Malian forces and MINUSMA alike. The Mission is trying to better protect civilians, keeping in mind the State’s primary responsibility in that regard, he said, noting the increase in ground patrols in cooperation with Malian armed forces. However, needs on the ground far outweigh the Mission’s capabilities, he said, underscoring the need for greater coordination between MINUSMA and Malian forces. Also urgent is the completion of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process and the deployment of a reconstituted army, he said, pointing out that extremist elements retain capacity to conduct coordinated attacks against Malian armed forces, sabotage infrastructure and terrorize local communities through reprisal attacks. Citing various incidents in the prior months, he said the blockade of Route Nationale 16 — a major supply route — from May to September hampered freedom of movement and halted commercial activities.
No lasting result in the fight against terrorism can be achieved without the restoration of State authority and the rebuilding of trust with the local community, he continued. Efforts must also be made to ensure that the Government-led military operations are carried out in line with human rights law and international humanitarian law, with perpetrators of violations held to account. MINUSMA will continue to monitor and investigate reports of alleged violations and abuses, he said, noting the Mission has conducted human rights training for security forces and other stakeholders and is providing technical assistance to strengthen the legal framework for the protection and promotion of human rights. On the humanitarian situation, he said the number of internally displaced persons has grown from 350,000 to more than 422,000 in the centre and north of Mali, while more than 175,000 Malian refugees are in neighbouring countries. More than 1.8 million people face severe food insecurity, a number that could reach 2.3 million by November 2022. As of May 2022, more than 1,900 schools were closed due to insecurity, affecting close to 600,000 children mainly in the central regions of the country. Humanitarian efforts are hampered by a lack of funding, he said, noting that to date only 30 per cent of $686 million requested for humanitarian assistance this year has been mobilized.
Sustained international attention and engagement, particularly from the Council, is needed, he said, emphasizing that stabilizing Mali is a sine qua non for stabilizing the entire region. MINSUMA will continue to do all it can to enhance the effectiveness of its response, he said, echoing the Secretary-General’s call for urgent provision of long-standing missing capabilities. MINUSMA has shown extraordinary resilience given its difficult operating environment, using resources as creatively and flexibly as possible. While its personnel on the ground are going to great lengths to fulfil its mandate, “this determination cannot be a substitute for the assets we so desperately need to do our job”. The Mission is committed to engaging constructively with Malian authorities to address challenges at hand, ensure full transparency and create the environment required for the successful execution of the mandate, including its freedom of movement. Recounting that an improvised explosive device killed four MINUSMA peacekeepers and wounded two others on 17 October, he said the international community and Malians are in this together. “The United Nations, in spite of the inherent limitations of peacekeeping, offers the best reward for achieving lasting peace in Mali and the greater Sahel,” he said.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France), noting that Mali is at a crossroads, drew attention to the steps taken in recent months towards restoring constitutional order. “These stages were crucial and should lead to tangible results,” he said, adding that only Malian stakeholders can implement the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation and return the country to democracy. On MINUSMA, he said that since its inception nine years ago, it has become one of the Organization’s most dangerous missions. Today, it is a mission in danger, with a security threat hovering above it. He called upon the Malian authorities to renew cooperation and trust with subregional partners to present a united front against the cross-border threat. He expressed concern about the lives of nine peacekeepers in Mali since June and noted several impediments on the Mission’s activities, including worrying restrictions on air movements. On the question of operations carried out by certain national forces with the support of Wagner Group mercenaries, he urged the Malian authorities to ensure that the announced investigations are completed and the perpetrators of abuses held accountable. The upcoming strategic review is an opportunity for a frank discussion with authorities on their expectations and commitment to ensuring that the Mission can discharge its mandate, he said.
RAVINDRA RAGUTTAHALLI (India) said the implementation of the 2015 Peace and Reconciliation Agreement remains fundamental for lasting peace in northern Mali. Extending State authority, particularly the civilian and security apparatus, should be a priority, given the worsening security situation. Terrorist groups, such as Jama'a Nusratul-Islam wa al-Muslimin and Islamic State of Greater Sahara, have gained ground in Mali, he said, adding that terrorism in the country must be treated with the same level of urgency as other global hot spots. Counter-terrorism operations conducted by countries in the region should be coordinated, he added. Noting the growing number of attacks against peacekeepers, with MINUSMA losing five peacekeepers in 2022, he called for swift action by all stakeholders to implement resolution 2589 (2021), to bring the culprits to justice and to establish accountability of crimes against peacekeepers. The Mission’s role remains critical to help Mali achieve stability, he continued, but it must not be burdened with direct counter-terrorism related operations. Such operations must be undertaken by national security forces, which better understand the terrain and local dynamics. He encouraged the Mission to augment its resources to meet the shortfalls stemming from withdrawal of international forces from Mali.
DAI BING (China) said that Mali is making progress in its political transition and its fight against terrorism as the Government and regional and international organizations work together. This positive momentum must be consolidated, he added. The international community and MINUSMA should work together to create a sustainable development strategy, he said, noting that the recent lifting of sanctions by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has helped Mali join the family of West Africa. The international community must do more to help Mali fight terrorism, while the Mission should extend more support as the Government implements the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation, which is important for stability in the Sahel region. Throughout this process, attention must be paid to Mali’s sovereignty, he said.
MONA JUUL (Norway) expressed growing concern at the restrictions which the Government has imposed on MINUSMA which limit the Mission’s ability to fulfil its mandate. Norway is also concerned about the detention of soldiers from Côte d’Ivoire, she said, calling for their urgent release. In addition, MINUSMA’s mandate and the status of forces agreement must be fully respected. Going forward, the Secretary-General’s upcoming review must be an honest one, with all options on the table. From that document, the Council, working with troop- and police-contributing countries, must consider necessary adjustments. She expressed deep concern about reports of violations and abuses by the Malian armed forces and the Wagner Group and called on all parties to implement the conclusions of the Council’s Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict. The agreement with ECOWAS on the transition timeline is crucial and must be followed, she said, adding that the Malian authorities have a clear responsibility to contribute to the full implementation of the Algiers Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali.
CAÍT MORAN (Ireland) said that when her country joined the Council as a non-permanent member 21 months ago, there was hope that a civilian-led transition would see Mali return to constitutional order by February 2022 and that implementation of the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation would accelerate. Regrettably, the situation has deteriorated on almost every front since then, she said. She urged the Malian authorities to engage with ECOWAS and MINUSMA and ensure that the electoral timetable is followed. She expressed concern that more than a quarter of the incidents in MINUSMA’s human rights report are attributed to the Malian Defence and Security Forces. Ongoing allegations about the activities of the Wagner Group are also deeply disturbing. “Furthermore, the 40 per cent increase in reported instances of conflict sexual violence is simply unacceptable,” she said, urging the Mission and the transitional authorities to step up prevention and protection efforts.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said that MINUSMA continues to make a vital contribution to Mali’s security, peace process and democratic transition despite unprecedented challenges. She expressed condolences to the families of victims of the 17 October attack on MINUSMA personnel, urging Member States to keep pressing for concrete action to ensure the safety of peacekeepers in Mali and around the world. The freedom of movement of MINUSMA personnel must be ensured, she said, emphasizing that attempts to obstruct the Mission’s often life-saving work are unacceptable. She urged the transitional Government to lift restrictions on MINUSMA and allow the Mission and its personnel to safely do their jobs. She added that the United States is appalled by reports of human rights violations and abuses allegedly perpetrated by violent extremist groups and by Malian armed forces in partnership with the Kremlin-backed Wagner Group. Those responsible must be held accountable, she said, adding that Wagner forces will bring exploitation and instability — not peace — to Mali.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil), strongly supporting efforts by the Malian Defence and Security Forces to fight terrorism, underscored the significance of improving communications between soldiers and local populations. Malian authorities must refrain from acts that restrict MINUSMA’s work, especially those which impact on freedom of movement and the rotation of contingents. He condemned the 17 October attack against MIMUSMA peacekeepers near Tessalit as well as misinformation and disinformation campaigns which threaten the security of peacekeepers and make it harder for MINUSMA to carry out its mandate. Stressing the critical need to restore constitutional order, he acknowledged the timetable that sets March 2024 as a transition landing point, adding that support from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) could be vital in implementing the Algiers Peace Agreement.
AMEIRAH OBAID MOHAMED OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates) expressed concern about the rising violence and insecurity in Mali, leading to a deteriorating of the humanitarian situation, with a disproportionate impact on women and children. The implementation of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement will provide the Government with space to tackle the security situation and improve the humanitarian situation. Steps taken by Malian authorities are encouraging, including establishing a stabilization centre and integrating ex-combatants into State institutions. Noting the ongoing engagement between ECOWAS and Malian authorities on constitutional arrangements, she underlined the need for sustained regional cooperation in strengthening national institutions and tackling cross-border security threats. She called on the international community to support regional efforts such as the Accra Initiative, among others, to aid States in securing their borders. Turning to the security situation, she strongly condemned the rise of attacks in densely populated areas and called for efforts to be undertaken to enable peacekeepers to carry out their mandate safely and with access, adding that they should be given protective equipment in case of attacks from improvised explosive devices.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana), speaking also on behalf of Gabon and Kenya, said despite the positive developments in the political situation, “Mali is not out of the woods yet”. He urged the Peace Agreement’s firm and timely implementation, encouraged stronger political will and commitment by Malian authorities, and supported close monitoring by the local monitoring committee, comprising the African Union, ECOWAS and the United Nations. Turning to security concerns, he said the reconfiguration of international counter-terrorism efforts in the Sahel, including the withdrawal of the French forces from Mali, has created capability gaps. The decision by some of the troop-contributing countries to withdraw their peacekeepers by year’s end could worsen the situation. While commending Malian authorities’ steps to fill the gaps with greater military presence in parts of Mali, he said additional steps are necessary to generate capabilities under the Force Adaptation Plan, as well as augment troops in a way that responds to actual political and security dynamics in the country.
The Mission’s presence is an important stabilizing factor and it needs urgent help to address many challenges, including disinformation campaigns and restrictions on their movements, including air restrictions that impact response to early warning alerts, he said. The strategic review of MINUSMA, expected by 13 January 2023, will provide some comprehensive and forward-looking recommendations to help it respond to the conflicts. The Mission needs stronger support in terms of troop contributions, capacity-building on counter-terrorism measures and the provision of adequate logistics, including air lift assets. “Equally important is the need for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Mali to be respected,” he said. Addressing the root causes of instability in Mali, as well as aggravating factors such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, is essential. He went on to express alarm at the deteriorating humanitarian situation, with more than 1.8 million people facing severe food insecurity and 2 million children under five affected by acute malnutrition. He repeated the Secretary-General’s call for the international community to step up its funding support to reach the $686 million Humanitarian Response Plan required for Mali in 2022.
ANNA M. EVSTIGNEEVA (Russian Federation) noted the progress made to improve the country’s stability and move ahead with the political process and the Algiers Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation. However, Mali is struggling against terrorism, she said, noting that the security vacuum is linked to the unprovoked withdrawal of French and European units from Malian territory. The Malian army has shown they can achieve tangible results to counter terrorists. The Russian Federation is providing the army with assistance to build military capabilities and train personnel. It pays tribute to the Mission, which has helped treat the wounded and is rebuilding infrastructure. The greater security levels are a guarantee for successful and credible elections in the country. The Malian authorities should be apprised of the movement of peacekeepers in the country. She noted the importance of the Secretary-General’s upcoming review, due in January 2023. Her delegation welcomed the July agreement in which ECOWAS lifted most regional sanctions against Mali. Yet she was troubled by efforts to transform the Sahel into an arena for geopolitical confrontation. This artificial crisis fomented against West African States shows Western neo-colonialists are attempting to maintain influence over the continent and pose a threat. She resented attempts to tarnish the Russian Federation’s assistance to the Malian army. Moscow will not interfere in Mali’s internal politics. It supports long-standing bilateral cooperation and long-standing goals to combat terrorism.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMÍREZ (Mexico) urged Malian authorities to focus tactically on reforms that will ensure the holding of elections within the established timeframe and strengthen the deployment of State authority throughout the country. Also vital is progress in electoral preparations, through dialogue with all political stakeholders, he said, adding that the conditions established by ECOWAS and the African Union must be respected. Noting Mali’s obligations as a State party to the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, he said the transition must be accompanied by concrete measures to implement the Algiers Peace Agreement. Recognizing the role played by the International Mediation Group on Mali, headed by Algeria, he stressed the urgency of advancing on the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme. The time has come to take decisions on the best way of supporting stabilization in Mali, he underscored, voicing hope that the strategic review of the Mission will bring to light robust and relevant information to make it possible to rethink its mandate and its goals. The review must be carried out in coordination with the High-level Panel on Security, Governance and Development in the Sahel, headed by former President of Niger Mahamadou Issoufou, he added. The decisions taken on the future of MINUSMA must also consider the regional context and the views of the High-level Panel on issues such as cross-border cooperation and the future of the G5 Sahel.
ALBANA DAUTLLARI (Albania) urged the Malian authorities to strengthen their cross-border cooperation to restore State authority throughout the country. Condemning the use of mercenaries who perpetrate indiscriminate attacks against civilians, she urged the Malian authorities to investigate all allegations and hold perpetrators to account. She welcomed the transitional calendar agreement with ECOWAS to return Mali to constitutional order by February 2024, stressing the need to facilitate a meaningful representation and inclusion of civil society, women, and youth groups. Noting the Agreement Monitoring Committee’s first meeting since October 2021, she urged sustained momentum to monitor the peace process and build consensus among parties. Voicing regret that the implementation of the Algiers Accord has been sidelined, she underscored that that agreement remains the best framework for addressing the root causes and resolving the conflict in northern Mali, calling for a renewed commitment to the Accord to address the growing insecurity and the structural causes of instability. MINUSMA continues to face restrictions of movement and access, contrary to its mandate, she pointed out, adding that the Mission continues to be one of the most dangerous and costly peacekeeping missions. The Secretary-General’s strategic assessment of the Mission currently under way should provide clear insight into how the Mission can better adapt to deal with the current challenges and operate effectively on the ground, she said.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) said the terror imposed by terrorist groups must not be countered with a military response that fails to protect civilians and their human rights. In August, the United Nations Independent Expert on human rights in Mali reported violations committed by Malian forces alongside “foreign military personnel described as Russian military officials”. The presence of the Wagner Group can no longer be ignored or denied. All perpetrators of human rights abuses and violations must be held accountable. Without accountability and justice, trust cannot be rebuilt and grievances will endure. MINUSMA must be granted unrestricted access to investigate human rights allegations independently. Mali’s statement in June that the authorities would not guarantee the Mission’s freedom to achieve this investigation was deeply concerning. He urged the authorities to work constructively with the Mission, lifting restrictions and enabling peacekeepers’ vital work. The United Nations upcoming review of MINUSMA will need to answer some fundamental questions, such as whether and how the Mission can maintain a viable presence in Mali. The review should present credible options that reflect realities on the ground.
ABDOULAYE DIOP, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Mali, condemned the 17 October terrorist attack in which improvised explosive devices killed four Chadian blue helmets. He outlined progress made on the political front, including steps taken towards the restoration of constitutional order taken in close cooperation with ECOWAS. These include a timetable for political and electoral reforms, including the electoral calendar, within the framework of the new electoral law, which also provides for the establishment of an independent election authority, whose 15 members were appointed in October. He then discussed progress on constitutional reforms, including the adoption by consensus of a draft constitution which takes on board the aspirations of the Malian people. Mali is committed to the diligent implementation of the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali emanating from the Algiers process, he said, welcoming steps, including a high-level decision-making meeting in August, that permitted the lifting of obstacles hindering its full implementation. Commending international mediation efforts led by Algeria, he noted that Malian authorities have agreed to the integration of 26,000 ex-combatants by 2024, as part of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process.
Turning to the security situation, he said the Secretary-General’s report would have been more objective had it provided information on progress made by the Government, which has, since December 2021, undertaken operations that seized arms and war-mongering materials and freed local areas of terrorist threats. Malian defence forces are growing in strength and the Government is committed to thwarting attacks and reprisals. However, the Government is cognizant that the situation cannot be addressed by responding to security threats alone. It is vital to strengthen the socioeconomic environment by responding to the needs of those who are susceptible to terrorist influences. He expressed surprise that the report failed to mention the invasion of Malian airspace on 15 August by French forces, in violation of international law and the United Nations Charter, adding: “There needs to be a meeting of the Council on acts of espionage and destabilization waged by France on Mali.” Denouncing the proxy war being fought on Malian territory, he emphasized the Government’s right to defend itself if attacks on its sovereignty continue. On human rights, he said that contrary to unfounded allegations, military operations were being conducted in stringent compliance with international humanitarian law, pointing out that the military justice system has opened trials which are under investigation. Any allegations made must be underpinned by evidence and must not be used as blackmail. He expressed regret over what he called “the instrumentalization of United Nations human rights mechanisms by external powers”, stating that the Group of Experts assisting the Committee established pursuant to resolution 2374 (2017) concerning Mali was straying beyond its mandate, including with respect to its theatre of operations, which is exclusively limited to the north of the country. Taking note of comments on operational challenges experienced by MINUSMA, he expressed deep concern about the arrival of forces with no legal basis under the United Nations flag, adding that his country has no desire to restrict the Mission’s movements and that any suspension of troop rotations was temporary. Mali is fully committed to working with the Mission so it can discharge its mandate with full respect to its sovereignty. On the upcoming strategic review, he expressed hope that the Mission can be refocused to support the restoration of State authorities across its territories and foster more synergy with authorities.
Mr. DE RIVIÈRE (France), taking the floor a second time, pointed to the mendacious and defamatory accusations by the Malian transitional Government contained in the letter transmitted to the Council on 15 August and again just repeated before the Council by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mali. He recalled that the redeployment of the reconnaissance operation outside Malian territory was concluded on 15 August with the departure from Mali of the last French soldier. A related communiqué published by France was submitted to Council members, he said, adding that the redeployment manoeuvre was decided on 17 February following in-depth consultations with all partners engaged in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel and based on observations that political conditions and operating circumstances were no longer in place to remain engaged in Mali. France has always been transparent before the international community, he said, voicing regret at the grave and unfounded allegations levied repeatedly against his country by Mali’s transitional authorities. France was engaged for nine years alongside Mali, at that country’s request, to fight terrorist groups, he said, emphasizing that 59 French soldiers died in that struggle. He went on to say that France never violated Mali’s air space and was complying with the provisions of the agreement despite Mali’s unilateral denunciation of the same. Going forward, France will remain engaged alongside all responsible States to counter terrorism and will continue to support civilians who are the main victims of terrorism, he said.
Mr. DIOP, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mali, also taking the floor a second time, said the remarks just delivered by France’s representative justified Mali’s request for an opportunity to provide the relevant information. Hopefully, France will consent to holding a special meeting as soon as possible. Otherwise, Mali will bring before the Council tangible and concrete proof of what it has presented. At stake is Mali’s credibility, he said, reiterating his request for a special meeting.